The Frankfurt Motor Show of 1981 was simply permeated with the spirit of automotive safety: sharp “beaks” of cars were replaced by streamlined forms, and company representatives only talked about calculating the deformation zones of the body. The company Mercedes stood out against the general background, though it did not forget about safety, but with its car it seriously raised another question, which before was thought about only in playful and romantic-dystopian way.
What will the car of the year 2000 be like? What will it be like? The Auto 2000 concept car was supposed to answer these questions, and it must be admitted that it hit the bull’s-eye on many points. Many of the technologies presented on the huge hatchback were subsequently applied to the production cars of Mercedes-Benz, in particular to the S-Class with the W140 body.
Against the background of the then novelties of the motor show (and that year in Frankfurt were presented such spectacular cars as the S-Class coupe in 126 body, Porsche 944 and Bitter SC Convertible) Auto 2000 stood out very much. Aerodynamics were made a cult here – the car was long, low, and wide, with a streamlined nose and a sloping windshield. The location of windshield wipers was interesting – they were hidden in the recesses of the front pillars.
But most of all attracted the attention of the so-called Camma tail, which is still often seen on cars-hybrid. All this was done in order to reduce the drag coefficient as much as possible. And Mercedes succeeded in this – the Cx value was only 0.28, which is comparable to the Porsche 911 of the last generation.
All the aerodynamics tricks were aimed only at one goal – to reduce fuel consumption as much as possible. The Mercedes-Benz company took such a responsible approach to the creation of the concept that it prepared for it three power units, and all of them were radically different from each other.
The first engine was a 3.8-liter V8 with half-cylinder deactivation system (which is now very common). The car could become a four-cylinder in the city (where it did not need a sharp acceleration) or on the highway (where a steady rhythm was maintained). Thanks to this know-how, it was possible to reduce fuel consumption in the mixed mode to 9.3 liters per 100 kilometers of run.
The second engine – 3.3-liter six-cylinder diesel engine with two turbines, which consumed 7.5 liters of “solar” per 100 kilometers at speeds of 120 kilometers per hour (and it is the actual flow rate, rather than calculated by modern methods). The third power unit is the most innovative and radical. Mercedes was seriously considering the use of a gas turbine engine.
The advantages of the gas turbine unit are obvious – it is compact, light, has outstanding torque ratings in a wide range and is less demanding to cool. For these reasons, in fact, Jaguar initially thought to equip the C-X75 concept with a gas turbine engine. All three Mercedes engines were combined with a four-speed automatic.
Before showing the Auto 2000 in Frankfurt, Mercedes-Benz spent the entire spring of 1981 running prototypes of the car with different engines on public roads. Initially, the company considered only one engine for the car (a gasoline V8), but the government learned about the project and allocated 110 million deutschmarks for the development of the ambitious car.
In addition to its environmental focus, the Auto 2000 boasted a curious interior with a fully digital dashboard – which, again, is a modern trend.
You can still see the Auto 2000 in the company’s museum in Stuttgart. And the ideas implemented in it can be found in many of today’s cars.